February 24, 2017
What kind of party do Democrats want to have?
Simple: One that stops losing elections.
As the members of the Democratic National Committee gather this weekend in Atlanta to choose a new leader, much as been said about the paths forward for the party.
One, personified by Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., is maximal confrontation. Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, urges his party to face down Trump as not just wicked but also criminal. Ellison has faced scrutiny because of his past ties to the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan.
It was at least three years before Republicans in the Obama era had to deal with bleating from their base about impeachment, but Ellison & Co. are already there.
Think about that for a second. A sitting member of Congress potentially in line to lead a major political party is calling for the impeachment of a president who has been in office for five weeks. Whatever you think of Donald Trump, that’s gonzo stuff.
The other way forward is being cast in the press as a more moderate choice, that of former Labor Secretary Tom Perez.
The very fact that Perez, a staunch uber-liberal, is being depicted as some sort of squish tells you how bad off the Democrats are now.
If you thought John Boehner and Reince Priebus had it bad keeping Republicans from swallowing their tongues in the Obama era, Perez and other basically normal Democrats are about to walk through a hellscape even more diabolical in nature.
Where Republicans had Obama’s supposedly forged birth certificate, Democrats have Vladimir Putin rigging the election. The Democrat’s conspiracy theory is less insane sounding, but will be equally damaging to the party and its mental health – if not more so.
From a practical point of view, dealing with Trump for Democrats would be a pretty straightforward matter. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has basically said as much: Find the points on which Trump, no conservative, agrees with Democrats — especially on stimulus spending, labor policy and trade — and then jam the GOP.
One of the advantages of having a non-ideological president was supposed to be all the deal-making that would get done. But instead, Washington is still stuck.
Yes, that is in part because Trump and his fellow Republicans can’t quite get the signal calling down on moving the big legislation still in the discussion phase, but also because no Democrat other than those from bright-red states feel free to work with Trump on anything.
If Schumer really wanted to be in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s head, the Democrat would be paying multiple visits to his fellow New Yorker at the White House.
But Schumer knows that he can’t because his party’s base doesn’t even consider Trump the legitimate president, just as some Republicans, including Trump, felt about Obama.
If Perez wins this weekend, his task of leading a political party, not a resistance, will be daunting to say the least. It would be easier for him than it is for Schumer since the party isn’t concerned with policy so much as fundraising and organizing.
Even so, dealing with the frothiest parts of his party is a task no prospective Democrat chairman, save perhaps Ellison, could relish.
The last time Democrats were in the wilderness like this was 13 years ago after the emotionally devastating defeat of John Kerry by incumbent president George W. Bush. Obama proved an unlikely but effective Moses for his party by effectively absorbing the energy the kooks of the far left and channeling it into more productive aims.
Right now, there is no one on the horizon with the potential exception of California Sen. Kamala Harris who could unite this angry, broken party.
This weekend we will find out just how angry and broken it is.